Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Viewing Endangered Orangutans in Kuching, Borneo

Sign at Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre near Kuching
Anders Blomqvist/Getty Images

The Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is located just 12 miles south of Kuching in Borneo's 1613-acre Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Since 1975 the center has been accepting animals either orphaned, injured, or rescued from captivity and reintroducing them back into the wild.

The Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is not a zoo; unless quarantined, the animals are not kept in cages and are free to roam about the thick, green forest canopy.

Rather than just attracting tourists, the primary goal of the wildlife center is to actually rehabilitate animals and get them back into the wild if at all possible.

The endangered orangutans are the primary reason that people visit the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, although the rangers do work with other species including crocodiles and hornbills. The center offers an increasingly rare opportunity to view orangutans in a natural habitat; many orangutans in the refuge are considered semi-wild and rarely come back to the rehabilitation center.

About the Orangutans

Orangutan means "forest people" in the local language; the name fits well given the primates' superior intelligence and human-like personalities. In 1996 a team of researchers witnessed a group of orangutans making sophisticated tools - and sharing them - for extracting seeds from fruit.

Orangutans are native only to Borneo and Sumatra and are considered extremely endangered. Of the estimated 61,000 orangutans existing in the wild, a little over 54,000 live on the island of Borneo. Female orangutans typically produce only one offspring every seven or eight years, hence the dwindling population.

Seduku - the "grandmother" at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre - was born in 1971 and has given birth to several offspring. Ritchie - the alpha male in the refuge - weighs over 300 pounds and was rescued by a journalist. Most of the orangutans at the center are named, and the rangers can easily identify them with a glance.

While the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is doing their best to preserve orangutans in the state of Sarawak, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is doing their part in Sabah.

Visiting the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

When first arriving at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre you must purchase a ticket from the window near the entrance. From the entrance, it is necessary to walk nearly a mile down the paved path to the orangutan area.

If open and time permitting, there are many pleasant gardens, nature walks, and an arboretum along the main path through the wildlife center.

To protect both the orangutans and tourists, the center no longer allows people to walk through the refuge on their own. Groups of up to five people are accompanied by a ranger into the forest for a fee of $13 per group.

  • Hours: The Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is open seven days a week including holidays from 8 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and from 2 - 4 p.m. Feeding times are at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Cost: Adults - $1; children - 50 cents. The admission cost is for the feeding area only. A ranger will take groups of up to five people into the forest to look for orangutans for $13 per group.
  • Contact: Phone +60 082-618423

The center has cold water and drinks for prices cheaper than those found in shops around Kuching; food is not available.

Feeding Times

Orangutans are extremely reclusive, and usually, the only opportunity to get decent photographs is during the organized feeding times. Even then, there are no guarantees, and possibly only one or two orangutans may show themselves to collect fruit left on platforms.

  • Morning: Between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Afternoon: Between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Rules and Safety When Viewing Orangutans

  • Be quiet.
  • Turn the flash off on your camera!
  • Never get closer than 20 feet to an orangutan, they have been known to injure humans.
  • Do not stay directly below orangutans if they are overhead.
  • Absolutely no food, water bottles, or smoking are allowed around the orangutans.

Getting to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Getting to the wildlife center can be tricky, but fortunately, there are several options. Buses leave from the Sarawak Transport Company (STC) office on Jalan Mosque, not far from India Street on the west side of the Kuching waterfront. Bus timetables change frequently, and sometimes buses don't run at all.

A one-way ticket to Batu 12 - the stop nearest to the wildlife center - should cost about 70 cents. Bus numbers 6, 6A, 6B, and 6C stop near the Semenggoh Wildlife Center; always let your driver know where you are going when you board. The journey by bus takes between 30 - 45 minutes.

Alternatively, you can taxi to the wildlife center (about $20) or team up with other travelers to share the costs of a minivan (about $4 per person).

Getting Back to Kuching

The last city bus returning to Kuching passes the wildlife center between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. You must hail the bus on the main road. If you miss the last bus, it is possible to negotiate a ride home with the minivans already waiting for passengers in the parking area.

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